News and Commentary

7 Things You Need To Know About Trump Health and Human Services Secretary Pick Tom Price

President-elect Donald Trump has selected Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to be the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary. Some conservatives are excited about him being picked and the media is afraid of what he’ll do to Obamacare given his constant criticism of it.

Here are seven things you need to know about Price.

1. Price has a 62 percent liberty score at Conservative Review. Price held down the conservative line during his first five years in the House of Representatives, but began voting with the establishment leadership in the House after the 2010 Tea Party wave.

“He has voted for fast track authority for President Obama, the $500 billion Medicare doc fix, renewal of SCHIP, for John Boehner as Speaker of the House – and that was just in 2015,” states Conservative Review‘s biography of Price. “Tom Price has clearly drifted from his conservative roots.”

2. Price is a doctor. Townhall’s Guy Benson notes that Price’s medical background as an orthopedic surgeon certainly enhances his resume to run HHS, as it allows him to “draw on his vast experience of actually treating patients in order to help convey the policy ideas the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans will roll out.”

3. Price has recommended actual Obamacare replacements. Price isn’t just the Obamacare critic that the media seems to fear; he has ideas of how to replace Obamacare after it’s repealed. For instance, Price has proposed the “Empowered Patients First Act,” which has the following five planks, according to National Public Radio:

  • Tax credits for people to purchase private insurance.
  • Increasing the availability of health savings accounts.
  • Pre-existing conditions can’t be denied coverage if “they had continuous insurance for 18 months prior to selecting a new policy.”
  • States can establish high-risk pools with federal money for those who can’t afford to buy private insurance.
  • Reducing the tax deduction on employer health insurance.

There’s certainly a lot for conservatives to like there, however…

4. Price punted on providing some crucial specifics. Christopher Jacobs points out in The Federalist that Price’s plan didn’t include:

  • How should a premium support system under Medicare be structured? Should payments to seniors be based upon the average plan bid, the lowest plan bid, or another formula? How quickly should those payments rise in future years?
  • How quickly should Medicaid block grants, or per capita caps, rise in future years?
  • Should an Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan rely on pre-Obamacare levels of taxesand spending, or should it redirect existing Obamacare spending in a different direction?

Jacobs goes on to note that Price released a budget in 2016 that only had “about four pages of proposals on Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare—some of which focused more on making the case against Obamacare than outlining the specifics of a Republican alternative.” Additionally, Price’s budget left Obamacare’s tax and Medicare spending levels in place.

The problem is that if Price, who has vociferously spoken out against Obamacare, is light on specifics, then…

5. Repealing Obamacare won’t be as easy as it seems, even under a Price HHS. “If one of the few conservatives in Congress with an interest in, and knowledge of, health care achieved that reputation in part by avoiding tough choices, what will Republicans do when they have to make those difficult decisions—and trust me, they will have to—without him next year?” asks Jacobs.

Republicans have the opportunity to repeal most of Obamacare through the reconciliations process; they only need 51 votes in the Senate to repeal it, and they will need to show some spine to do it. They routinely failed to stand up to President Barack Obama; will they be able to stand up to congressional Democrats?

6. Price is ardently opposed to Planned Parenthood. Price has voted to defund Planned Parenthood and has a 100 percent voting record from National Right to Life. He also skewered Planned Parenthood as “barbaric” in an epic statement, per Life News:

“Anyone who has not viewed the disturbing videos recently released should do so. It is only with that knowledge that one can know, in horrific detail, the barbaric practices being committed with federal taxpayer dollars. These actions cross a moral line beyond comprehension. The revealing picture is of a supported routine for abortion practices that result in the harvesting and sale of baby parts, some of which are secured in barbaric process. This, if seen, will shake anyone’s conscience. Today, I voted to end taxpayer funding for the organization responsible and add criminal penalties in the event of born alive abortions.

“This effort is not about party ideology; it is about common, human decency and who we are as a people. I applaud the House for the steps taken today and encourage Congress to take further action in the days to come.”

7. The Senate Democrats are going to try and block his appointment. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has signaled that Democrats will be united against Price.

“There ought to be bipartisan support against a secretary who’s going to privatize Medicare and not fund Planned Parenthood,” Schumer said, per Bloomberg.

Democrat Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Chris Murphy (CT) have gotten in line with Schumer.

There’s still a good chance that Price will be confirmed since he only needs 51 votes, so as long as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can keep the Republicans together, Price should be the next HHS Secretary. The fact that the Democrats are already vehemently opposed to Price does suggest that he will do good things as HHS Secretary.